Should you choose braces or veneers to straighten your teeth?

Who wouldn’t want a beautiful smile and the results immediately?! But “instant orthodontics” with veneers is not as glamorous as you think and is an irreversible procedure. We get excited each time we see a before and after. But we are all getting more and more impatiens and wanting things now and that’s where many people end up with veneers when orthodontics could have been a less invasive and long lasting solution for them. This is sometimes referred to as “Instant Orthodontics”, where a patient would have white crooked teeth, then magically would have beautiful straight teeth.

#1 What’s “Instant Orthodontics”

If you start looking into it more you’ll be surprised to how it’s done and for those proning a non invasive or more natural approach to dentistry it can be sickening to see.
These instant smiles require heavy tooth preparations. These teeth are cut down, mutilated and reduced to stumps to create space for the porcelain veneers to be glued on top to create the appearance of a beautiful smile.

What is that you ask? That’s this….

Google “Tooth Preparation Veneers or Crowns” and have a look at the pictures.
These are tooth stumps. The correct terminology for recording the colour of the remaining tooth is called “Stump Shade” the word itself is a little alarming, but veneers and crowns do serve a purpose in the RIGHT cases. NOT as a replacement for orthodontics. Unfortunately some dentists say the patient refused fixed braces so they chose veneers, in this age of aligners that can’t really be justified unless there are some specific indications. So let’s look at this properly.

#2 When braces should be your choice over veneers

Here’s the the three elements that make a beautiful smile:
Position of the teeth – crooked or straight
Shape of the teeth – too short, too long, too narrow, uneven
Colour – too dark, black, or slightly less white.

1. Position

If the ONLY thing wrong with the smile is the position of the teeth, so the shape is fine and colour can be solved by whitening, then the answer is orthodontics – any type of fixed braces or aligners is much healthier and long lasting as you still have your natural teeth, they have not been cut down irreversibly.
Doing veneers or “Instant Orthodontics” – google it,on healthy teeth cannot really be justified in this modern age UNLESS – the veneers are no preparation (this means the teeth were not cut down at all and the veneers were glued on the surface, but this creates a thick fake appearance) or it is done with some non-invasive cosmetic bonding again without cutting the teeth.

2. Shape

If the teeth are the wrong shape then we need to understand what the issue is.
If the teeth are chipped or worn like for most adults then the best solution is to align the teeth using braces / aligners, then bleach the teeth to whiten them, then to use cosmetic bonding to improve the shape of the teeth using non-invasive composite added to the teeth. This then corrects the shape of the teeth without cutting them down versus crowns.
Now in some situations veneers could be needed if the teeth were very damaged or had large fillings in them, but the point is on a healthy tooth which just needs to be lengthened, thickened or widened slightly then composite bonding is a great solution. As it fixes the shape without causing irreversible damage.
Yes it needs some polishing / maintenance but that’s ok, as everything needs some maintenance, your own natural teeth don’t last forever, as with veneers / crowns when they go wrong or break you are at risk of losing your whole tooth which can be extremely traumatic, requiring even more cost and treatment to try and fix it.

3. Colour

If the teeth are simply not as white as they were before then teeth whitening is a great way to improve the colour in a safe and non-invasive way.
If one tooth is quite dark / grey due to a root canal treatment then internal whitening is a great solution as it is a special way of whitening the tooth from the inside.
This again prevents more invasive treatments (but sometimes this improvement doesn’t last). Then in more extreme cases such as heavy tetracycline staining or very damaged teeth that have already been whitened as much as they can (this is key the first step should always be the best whitening possible). Then veneers or crowns can be considered if it didn’t work and was really

#3 What you should know about veneers

Veneers are ceramic facings that go on the teeth, generally the teeth are cut down to make space to fit the porcelain on the tooth and not make the tooth look too thick.
These days there is a trend of minimally invasive dentistry which is great. This means there are no-prep veneers or very minimal prep veneers (prep means preparation aka cutting) If you were to choose veneers it’s important to understand and choose the least invasive option as nothing lasts forever. You can get decay around veneers, they can fracture when biting a fork or ice, and they can look old if the gum recedes around them.
When planning veneers you don’t want to get “Chandler” veneers, have a google of Matthew Perry veneers from Friends – he only had his front 6 done which looks strange from the side. You would need to get 8-10 veneers at least and this would cost £3000 – £20000 depending on where you go. This is huge expense and would only cover the top teeth – leaving the lower teeth still not looking good. This looks terrible when the uppers are very white and the lowers aren’t.

#4 A new trend: snap on smile / clip on veneers

These days there is a trend of clip on veneers which are plastic fake teeth you clip in, a bit like a denture. These are a temporary solution and you can’t eat with them. They are great for those with many missing teeth as a temporary denture alternative, but as you can’t eat with them its not a long term solution. For young people this is not really a solution as you have to take them out every night, and the money spent on this could have been put towards a teeth straightening solution which could be more permanent and impactful, after all you don’t want to go home and remove your smile in front of your date, it could cause quite a shock.

It’s important that you know the difference between a cosmetic procedure that’s irreversible like veneers, and one that is reversible like clear aligners.
Overall if you want a beautiful smile do your research, be aware of what’s involved, what’re the risks and choose an option that lasts. It’s your smile and you want to keep it for a lifetime.

Not sure if this is for you? Read this first to learn more